- we inform all our members about their rights and supports them when they decide to claim them, e.g. providing legal advice, getting them in touch with the responsible officers or providing financial and emotional support
- we offer training to women and helps them finding a job or starting their own business
- We develop proposals for changes in the government's laws and policy, pressurizing the authority to adopt them.
Over the years, we helped thousands of single women to get back on their feet after the death of their husband, having been abandoned, escaping domestic violence etc. We need your help to cover our day-to-day expenses and finance our projects, e.g. pay the salaries of the coordinators, for advocacy costs, and training. You can read more details about our organization below. Any size donations is welcome! Thank you!
What we do (concretely):
- we offer training of various nature: to learn marketable skills, to illustrate and change gender construction, self-defense training, workshops about existing schemes, rights, laws protecting women etc.
- we organize Jan Sunvais (public hearings): a platform of interaction between administration and women, where the latter can share their problems and concerns directly with the authority responsible
- micro-credit: during the past years allowed several women to open their business, buy a cow etc. in order to sustain themselves financially
- advocacy: we usually start contacting the administration at local level; this often deals with the problems we want to solve in their every day's activities and are ready to support our proposals in front of the higher authorities; ENSS activity allows to coordinate these requests among a large number of administrative units, gaining strength in front of the central government. In case of plans to be implemented
locally, our years spent networking locally, collaborating and offering services at this level, as well as the support of the NGO SUTRA, allowed us to build a good reputation and relations with the administration. In case this does not work, we work with the media (much of our activity received a lot of media attention) and
organize marches, protests, petitions etc.
- Self-help groups: the women can obtain help directly at the monthly meetings or through the Self-help groups for a long term cooperation (e.g. Microcredits)
- During the monthly meetings women can share their experience. This results in an effective emotional support and the building of strong bonds within the groups; moreover, the women start being less concerned with their personal experience and start seeing themselves as one among many with similar negative experience,
and start working for the benefit of the entire community. Also, during these meetings women can receive the help they need: for example, they are given the information they need about a certain scheme or to find a job; illiterate women are helped filling the forms they need; a woman scared of being harassed on her way to work will be accompanied by a couple of other ENSS's women; if an official denies her something unlawfully or they are anyway abused they will be accompanied by an ENSS worker to do whatever is necessary to solve the situation
Why single women?
In India, single women have to endure a great amount of social stigma; at the same time, the indifference end even hostility they face in the society translates itself in the absence of much needed legislation at the political level. We operate in Hiachal Pradesh, mostly in rural areas: the central problem is that here single women are, socially speaking, outcasts who do not enjoy the same social or familial protection as other people do.
- Widows, especially if young, are held “responsible” for the death of their husband. Also, the idea that the children will take care of their older mothers is rooted in Indian society but this is in reality often not the case. Many widows have to endure abuses or demands for sexual favors, typically from their brothers in-law; their in-laws seize their money/land and thrown them out or, conversely, do not allow them to exit the house while using them as cheap labor. They can return to their natal home, where, however, do not have any legal right (e.g. applying for governmental schemes, as they are registered in another Panchayat/Municipality). Also, their family do not always have the financial means to maintain them and see them as a burden. Another problem is that at the moment of the marriage this is often (intentionally) not registered in the Panchayat's register by the husband; in case of his death or abandonment, the wife cannot make any claim on common property, the house they were living in, etc., because for the law they had never been married.
- Deserted women - not possessing divorce papers - cannot prove that they do not have an husband taking care of them and hence they cannot expect any help from the government. Even if they have a FIR proving the disappearance of their husband, several years have to pass before they are entitled to any help.
- Divorced women are often looked upon even if they are escaping a situation of violence and abuse. Moreover, even if a court order their husband to pay them a given sum, they are often helpless if the husband decide not to obey; the proceedings to take him in court
again are long, costly, scary and the outcome uncertain
- Unmarried/married with husband in prison/heavy handicapped/ill etc. are seen as an easy prey (because they are alone) and are more vulnerable to abuses. They are often not considered or treated as an autonomous entity even by the government. Invalidity pension are also not sufficient
- For many women in rural areas justice is not accessible because of social pressure, financial issues, distance and ignorance about their rights
- Single women rarely have a job or the skills to obtain one; if they do, they are rarely paid enough to cover their basic needs and are often harassed if they work outside their home. Also, they usually lack a momentary familial or governmental support that could allow them to acquire the needed skills or to open their own business; nor they can hope to receive a loan from a bank. Their financial standing is also usually very difficult
- In India, about the 80% of the agricultural labor is done by the women, usually on the family's land; however, this work is usually not recognized or payed
- Many schemes have procedural barriers and are thus unattainable in practice
- Women often do not speak up through the traditional political channels either because they don't have the courage to do so or because they know that their community see their problems
as niche ones and thus as unimportant
ENSS acts on two levels: it helps women in their daily life and addresses single cases of abuses; on the base of recurring problems it develops then an handful of political requests. Therefore:
- ENSS goes at the root of the problems while keeping paying attention to the individual dimension
- The existence of ENSS allows to fight for the political requests in a coordinate way and relying on a large base of women (~15'000), gaining a considerable strength
- Who helps are just the same people who are being helped. Therefore, there is no patronizing but rather true empowerment!
- No one knows the social and cultural context, the issues and the effectiveness of the solutions used better than the women themselves
Area of Advocacy:
- people have to start seeing single women as autonomous persons who are not defined by their role in regard to men and have the right to be respected even outside the traditional roles (if their not married, or if they are divorced etc.). Traditional gender construction has to be transformed accordingly
- Himachal is mostly an agricultural state and therefore all women, including those who do not have any marketable skill, know well how to cultivate and take care of the cattle. Consequently, we want to receive 50 bighas of and on lease from the government: single women without any source of income could cultivate it to make a living and pay a percent back to the government.
- According to the law, women have the right to inherit at least a part of their parents' land. This is not always happening. We also need to sensitize people about that and make justice more accessible. If all women would receive a bit of their ancestral land from their parents/husband according to the current law, they all would have a steady source of income capable to give them some security, even if small
- Women need to participate more in local politics, participating to the Gram Sabha (town's assembly) and racing as candidates in the elections themselves
- Women's name need to be put on the forms for House Tax. In this way they will share the property of the house with the husband and it will not be possible to throw them out after the death of the same anymore
- Women need to be registered as cultivators so to make the signature of the wife necessary to sell or purchase land
- Pensions (in particular for older women) have to become proportioned to the actual cost of living